Counselor’s Desk: Finding purpose amid loss

Back in 2008, I was thrown for a loop. I was working in the big city in what would appear to be a glamorous designer job. Although I enjoyed my job, there always seemed to be something missing, but I didn’t know what it was. I was sleepwalking through life without any direction or purpose. Then a tragedy took place in my family as my sister suddenly passed away. Just four weeks later I was let go from my job due to the economic recession. Lay-offs were taking place all around me and there were very few opportunities left for people with my skill set at the time. I really had no choice but to stop and rethink my path.

Each member of my family grieved uniquely from the others. I tried to slow down and notice things that I had not made time for before. I reconnected with nature and literally stopped to smell the roses. I made a point to spend more quality time with loved ones. I spoke with my three-year-old niece who lost her mother and was perplexed by what she said. “My mommy dived in the water and now she is with Jesus.”

This was very unusual to me because this is not how she passed. There were also noticeable changes in her five-year-old sister’s behavior. This sparked an interest in me to find out about how children interpret death. I took off to a local university library and found some very interesting information about brain development and how it shapes a child’s understanding of the concept of death. It turns out that it is not until the age range of 5-8 years that a child can grasp the finality of losing a parent.

This exploration guided me on a path that has felt right all along. I went back to college and studied psychology and counseling and eventually became a counselor. I am now in a very rewarding career where I help people and I feel a sense of accomplishment every day.

One thing I learned along the way is that it is very important to have a purpose in life. Back when I was working as a designer I didn’t have any idea about my purpose. It wasn’t something I would have even thought about. Looking back, I was creating functional and beautiful spaces but it didn’t mean anything to me. I now reflect on the things that I do at my job and feel good about it because I know that my sister is looking down at me with pride. Now I reflect on my life and say to myself “this is something I would be proud to engrave on my tombstone.” Ten years ago I would not have been able to say that.

Some life experiences have a meaning that we have to discover for ourselves. My 2008 experiences were a big flashing sign telling me that I needed to make a shift. In fact, I think that my sister’s death was a wake-up call for my sleepwalking through life. It is unfortunate that it took such a tragedy to get my attention, but once I realized it, I was loaded with motivation to make those changes. I wouldn’t want to relive those experiences, but they did lead me to where I am today. I have carried with me the feeling that to not find a new path would have allowed my sister’s death to be in vain.

I come to work each day and I love to help people discover their life’s purpose or get back on the right path or accomplish whatever need they may have. It helps me to realize that some things happen for a reason. We need to look closely to find the reason and discover the meaning for ourselves.

Jennifer Meador is a Master’s Level, National Certified Counselor who is pursuing her professional license. For more information about Tombigbee Outreach, call 334-287-2428.